Acupuncture for Insomnia
We all struggle to sleep from time to time, but when it becomes a nightly occurrence, it’s clinically referred to as insomnia. People with insomnia either find it difficult to fall asleep, or wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep.
Insomnia is far more common than we may realize. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that around 30 percent of the general population experiences frequent sleep disruption. Even more shockingly, Science Daily reported that one in four Americans develop insomnia on a given year.
Because insomnia is rarely an illness, but a symptom, it’s difficult to treat it appropriately. Often, insomnia is caused by a combination of factors, including eating habits, anxiety and stress, allergies, chronic pain, gastrointestinal problems, asthma and depression.
Finding a medication that can effectively treat several of these factors at once is near-impossible. The only therapy that has shown real promise in treating multiple causes of insomnia in one is acupuncture.
How Acupuncture for Insomnia Works
During an acupuncture session for insomnia, a therapist will insert thin needles into various pressure points around the body, including the area between the shoulder and spine at heart level, the center of the forearm below the wrist, the back of the neck below the base of the skull, and the spot directly between the eyebrows on the forehead.
These pressure points will trigger a nervous system response that ultimately alters the hormone production inside the brain. Some of the common outcomes of acupuncture are reduced anxiety, increased melatonin production, and reduction sleep disruption during the night. When combined, these outcomes can amount to an overall improvement in a patient’s sleeping habits.
An acupuncture therapist will ask about a patient’s medical history to determine the cause of their insomnia. In some cases, acupuncture is used to treat not the insomnia itself, but a chronic pain or physical condition that may prevent a patient from getting a good night’s sleep.
Proven Benefits of Acupuncture for Insomnia
Acupuncture has been scientifically proven to be effective in treating insomnia patients in countless studies in the last decade. One study looked at the effect of acupuncture on primary insomnia, and reported that sleep quality, total sleep time, sleep efficiency, and daytime functioning achieved were all significantly improved in participants following six weeks of acupuncture therapy.
Even more promisingly, a large review of 46 randomized trials found repeated evidence that acupuncture was more effective than medications for participants with insomnia, and increased total sleep duration by an average of three hours. The review also found that combined acupuncture and herbal medicine was significantly better than herbal medicine alone on the increase of sleep rates.
The Future of Acupuncture for Insomnia
Insomnia is common enough to affect the majority of the US population at some point during their lifetime, and the need for holistic treatments that can eliminate the source of the issue is ever-growing. As a completely natural, low-risk therapy, it’s likely that acupuncture will continue to grow in popularity as an insomnia treatment.